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Lehigh Valley Women Entrepreneurs Discuss Navigating the New Normal

By Kat Schneider on May 19, 2020

The latest LaunchBox Ladies event, held online, focused on women entrepreneurs and how they are handling the challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic.

Adaptation is the name of the game for everyone these days. For local customer-based businesses, survival depends on deftly changing business models to adapt to the new normal created by recent circumstances.

Penn State Lehigh Valley is doing its part to help those affected by hosting four free webinars featuring local small business owners through a new series titled, “LaunchBox Ladies: Navigating the New Normal,” which focuses on women entrepreneurs and how they are handling these new challenges.

“We’re all in this together trying to figure out what the new normal will be we’ve all had to adapt and pivot every aspect of our life due to COVID-19,” said Penn State Chancellor Dr. Tina Richardson. She explained that the series gives the group the opportunity to “share what we are learning and to continue the LaunchBox ladies efforts to support women in their entrepreneural endeavors.”

The web presentation was the first in a series of virtual educational events series showcasing how various business segments are pivoting and adapting in response to COVID-19. Other topics that will be covered over the course of the series include professional services, health care and wellness, and higher education.

Held on May 13, the first event was sponsored by ASR Media Productions and featured Ashley Russo of ASR Media Productions; Khine Zaw of Khineder Creations; Elaine Zelker of Elaine Zelker Photography; and Ann Marie Supinski of AM Luxe.

Of the sectors affected in this new normal, retail faces a particularly uncertain future, the panelists said. For some, having no customers in stores means less sales and the absence of a face-to-face interactions. This is not the case for all, however, especially for those who’ve adapted.

During the talk, each entrepreneur discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their businesses and how they have been able to adapt to find success.

Supinski said retailers can still offer a hands-on approach using technology and a little know-how. For instance, Supinski offers virtual fashion shows for her clients showing them the fit and flare of each new piece she gets in the store. She also provides a Box of Style, where she sends hand-selected pieces to her clients for them to try on at home and keep what they like and send back pieces they don’t.

Zaw, who sells handmade skincare products and unique gifts, said she has seen an outpouring of support from loyal customers. She advises business owners in the months to come to “divert challenges into opportunities.”

Similarly, Zelker, advises adaptation. As someone who specializes in photography and headshots, she has turned her attention to charity work and other streams of income and is currently working with her daughters on a new creative endeavor.

For Russo, stay-at-home orders have given her the chance to refocus and look at career goals. Understanding her “why” for her career has been essential in helping her move forward through challenging times.

“Believe in your talent and how exceptional you are,” Supinski said.

Lehigh Valley LaunchBox (LVLB) is an early-stage business accelerator program for entrepreneurs. As a signature program of Invent Penn State, LVLB partners with a network of community and diversity partners to offer continuing support to small business owners and guides them through every step of their startup journey.

George Lewis, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), serves on the LaunchBox Advisory Board.

For more information on LaunchBox Ladies, email [email protected] or call 610-285-5208.

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